Madam Speaker, I rise in the House to express my sadness and shock over events unfolding on the international scene. For several days now, Azerbaijan has been waging a brutal military attack against the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which the people there call Artsakh.
The attack is very serious. Civilians are being bombed, leaving some dead or injured. The Lachin corridor has been blocked by Azeri forces for months. Now, we are witnessing a majority of the Armenian population flee the region for fear of reprisals. Already, most of the 120,000 people living in the area are heading to neighbouring Armenia seeking refuge. My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona and I have written to the Government of Canada, asking it to seriously consider imposing sanctions against the dictatorial Azerbaijani regime. We cannot keep silent about the blatant human rights violations being committed there. The situation bears many similarities to the forced displacement of a civilian population, which is outlawed by international agreements.
Now, let me come back to today's bill. It touches on themes that are central to people's lives. We have been constantly hearing about the severe housing crisis and the cost of groceries for the past weeks and months. It is hurting workers, seniors, students and families everywhere.
I want to take the time to emphasize one point. We are definitely seeing more and more visible homelessness on the streets in Ottawa and Montreal, but there is also invisible homelessness. I have just returned from a trip to Sault‑Sainte‑Marie and Sudbury. Things are just as difficult there. People are grappling with mental health issues and drug addiction. There are people who do not have a roof over their heads, who are on the streets. This crisis is everywhere. It is a homelessness and housing crisis. There are people who desperately need help.
Earlier today, NDP MPs had the opportunity to meet with Olivia Chow, our former colleague who is now the mayor of Toronto. She told us that 10,000 people are living in Toronto's shelters every night. These shelters are overflowing. Hundreds of people are turned away every day. There are people sleeping in church basements.
In Quebec alone, a recent report on housing and poverty from the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain shows that 173,000 households are in core housing need. That means they have inadequate housing or live in overcrowded housing or in poor physical or material conditions that are affecting their health.
About 370,000 Quebec households are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Anyone spending more than that is living in poverty. That is the norm, that is the rule, it is 30%. If someone is spending more than 30% on housing, they are living in poverty and are at risk of ending up in a precarious situation. Nearly 400,000 families in Quebec are in this position. Moreover, close to 130,000 households, families and individuals are spending more than 50% of their income on housing. That means they are just steps away from homelessness.
This really illustrates the impact of the Liberals' and Conservatives' decision to walk away from building social housing and co-operatives over the years. What we are seeing right now is the direct impact of that decision.
What is more, rent in Quebec has gone up by 13% in two years, and the phenomenon of renovictions is becoming increasingly frequent. That means that people living in a rental unit in a given neighbourhood whose rent used to increase by small or relatively reasonable amounts have to move because they are being kicked out of their unit. In Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, we are constantly getting messages and emails from people who are desperate, people who are really sad to lose their homes. Right now, it seems as though the government is turning a blind eye to this phenomenon.
Today, we are still seeing the impact of the cuts the Liberals made in 1994. At that time, the Liberals stopped making investments in long-term housing, particularly social housing. The Conservatives were no better. Under Stephen Harper's regime, when the current Leader of the Opposition was a minister, 800,000 affordable housing units were lost. The Conservatives are in no position to lecture anyone. What is more, their solution is pretty transparent. It involves taking public land and selling it to private developers who will use it to make a profit and not to meet people's needs.
The current Liberal strategy is not working, either. All the reports confirm that. All the experts and the community groups working on the ground are saying that the situation is getting worse year after year.
The member for Davenport can keep saying that her government is investing $82 billion in the housing strategy, but the fact is that it is not working. It is failing to meet our extremely pressing housing needs.
Bill C-56 removes the GST on the construction of rental housing, which is a good idea. The reason it is such a good idea is that it was proposed by the NDP. As usual, however, the Liberals are doing things in half measures. The government is giving a bit of a shot in the arm to people willing to build rental housing in order to improve supply. We understand the logic. We need to address the supply side. However, there are no guarantees at all. There is no mechanism or measure to ensure that these homes will be affordable and meet the needs of people in our communities, cities, towns and regions.
Is it possible that this will have no impact on the price of rent? Is it possible that the 5% rebate being gifted will only increase the developer's profit margin? Will we be any further ahead if these developers profit from this gift or from this incentive to build housing which, in any case, will be rented out at $1,200, $1,800 or $2,300 a month? Is this going to help ordinary people or those who have been on waiting lists for social housing? The answer is no. There is still some work to do. We will need to improve this bill.
The Minister of Finance tells us that this measure will help add 30,000 housing units a year. Last year, 270,000 housing units, houses or apartments were built. The CMHC, however, is telling us that we need 500,000 housing units a year. According to my calculations, 270,000 housing units plus 30,000 housing units comes to 300,000 housing units. We still need 200,000 more housing units. This is just a half measure that provides no guarantee that we can help people afford their rent. This is still market logic. The right to housing is not being seen as a fundamental right. The Liberals never talk about it. This bill completely fails to address the fact that housing is a human right, a fundamental right. The Liberals are handing out gifts that will have no impact on the assistance they are trying to provide to the middle class, to workers.
How do we solve this? We need to build affordable housing. That means building housing where the rent does not exceed 30% of an individual's or family's income. It is not particularly complicated.
My NDP colleague from Vancouver East says that we would need a major nationwide construction project in order to build 2 million affordable and non-market housing units, specifically, social housing, co-operatives or community housing. There needs to be an acquisition fund to buy buildings and land and to build housing that meets people's needs. In Vienna, Austria, they have done exactly that. Today, 60% of that city's housing stock is non-market. That is an example worth following. Unfortunately, the federal government is not doing that. None of these ideas are included in the bill before us today. The NDP believes that an acquisition fund is needed to build public housing.
With regard to groceries, we are seeing the crisis unfold day after day. People are making agonizing choices, even having to reduce meal sizes. Grocery prices have gone up 22% since 2020, but not many people have seen their wages go up 22% since 2020. In the meantime, while people are suffering, these big companies are busy lining their pockets. Last year, Loblaws, Sobey's and Metro made $3.6 billion in profits. They are making record profits when people are having trouble paying for their groceries, and the Liberal government is doing nothing.
We in the NDP believe that it is not enough to stabilize prices at the grocery store. Prices must come down. We have solutions to propose. We need to punish the CEOs who are lining their pockets. We need to be able to tax the windfall profits of these major grocery chains, who are using inflation as an excuse to hurt people. The leader of the NDP has introduced a bill that I hope to be able to talk about and that would give the Competition Bureau more power to impose sanctions and investigate. I hope that the Liberal government will follow suit. My colleague's bill contains a lot of good solutions. We have to be thorough and not just go halfway, as the Liberals all too often do.